We’ve all been zooming around now for months. You may think you know how to zoom (it’s become a verb now, right?) so I’m going to test you on your knowledge. These questions are based on extensive research on my part (sitting at my desk all day), as well as best practices that I’ve been sharing with clients and presenters for virtual conferences.
Yes, I’m getting serious now. If you’re presenting online professionally, you should be aware of the best way to show yourself and share with your viewers.
Q. Where should my web camera be located?
A. Your web camera – whether it’s on your laptop or a separate device – should be sitting at eye level, or slightly higher.
Why is this important? Because it’s the most natural way to speak with someone or to have a conversation with them. We’re used to looking at people “eye to eye,” as they say.
In addition, it’s far more flattering than looking up at someone from below, which is the most common perspective we get on a laptop. If you think about it – looking at yourself in the zoom photo – is this the best way to look at you? If you’re doing business professionally, is this really how you want to present yourself?
To get your web camera at eye level, or higher, you may need to place your laptop up on a shoebox or a stack of books. Do whatever works for you. When you see the resulting image, you’ll be glad you did!
Q. What lighting should I use so that “I look my best” on camera?
A. The best lighting is natural light from a window. But be careful that the window is in the right place – having it in front of you, as if you’re looking out the window, is best when it comes to lighting your face.
The worst lighting is having a window behind you – which many people do – because your face ends up being in the dark. If you want people to feel comfortable speaking with you, it’s best to have your face illuminated, so you’re not a dark silhouette. If you must have a window behind you, close the blinds as much as possible and add a light source (lamp or ring light) in front of your face.
If you have a window to your side, as I do, this is ok but not the best lighting. If you need to record a video, or be on an important call, add a light source (such as a lamp or ring light) on the other side, to illuminate the darker side of your face.
Q. Where do I position myself in the onscreen image?
A. Your head should be at the center of the framed image on the screen – your head and shoulders should take up most of the image frame. Again, this may seem obvious but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people sitting so far back in the frame it feels as though I’m speaking to them from across the room. Would you do that in real life? No – so don’t do it online, either.
In these zooming days of not connecting in person, it’s important to feel connected through the camera lens. The best way to do this is to be close enough to the camera that people feel you’re about the same distance from them as you would in real life. Or even a bit closer.
Q. Sometimes I need to get up from the conference call or move from one location to another. What’s the best way to do this? It always feels awkward.
Great question! As many of us work from home in newer or less-than-ideal situations, there are times when we’re on a conference call and we need to move or resolve an issue outside of the meeting. If you’ve witnessed this on another person’s camera, it’s a dizzying experience as they move or as they jump up from the camera to go deal with a situation. Please note: you’re not doing anyone a favor by staying on camera as you deal with “life.”
Take a moment – and a deep breath – and tell people you need to be off camera (or move) and you’ll be back in a moment. Then turn off your camera and do what you need to do. Trust me – you’re doing everyone on the call a favor by sparing them the vertigo of your journey or the questions they’re asking one another – or themselves – as you disappear off to the side and the rest of your home life takes place in the background.
Once you’re settled in again, in front of your camera and computer, take another deep breath, relax a beat, and start your camera again. You don’t need to announce yourself – people have been waiting for you or carrying on without you. Either way, people will notice you’re back.
Q. What’s the best way to connect with someone online if we’re having a difficult conversation?
A. When you’re talking about a very important or sensitive topic, remember to look at the camera directly – not at the image of the person on your screen. Looking at the camera image is like looking into someone’s eyes. To the person who’s looking at your image – on their screen – it appears as though you’re “looking right at them.” This feels good, emotionally, and makes a big difference if you’re having an important conversation.
I’ve noticed that people “speak to” the image on the screen, rather than looking directly into the camera. Do you do this? It’s fine if you’re having an everyday or normal conversation because we’ve all gotten used to that phenomenon – people not looking directly at us as we talk online. But if you really want to be effective – and to feel “heard” – look directly at the camera lens. It makes a huge difference to your viewer(s) in feeling “connected.”
If you typically host or are involved in an in-person conference and don’t know what to do, now that we’re in a virtual world for a while, contact me! I’m happy to help you navigate this transition and show you your online platform options.
Thank you. Good advice.